It’s hard to believe it has been over a month since wildfires broke out across Central Texas. For UWCA, this time of year is always busy with workplace giving campaigns, but the wildfire relief efforts brought an added sense of urgency to the work we do.
Within hours of hearing about the fires, our 2-1-1 (the United Way Helpline) team went to work verifying information on resources, services and safety. Social media is now a huge part of every disaster recovery effort so 2-1-1 staff members scoured social channels for up-to-the-minute news, verified its validity and then served as a hub of verified information for all callers.
UWCA also initiated a text-to-give campaign, so anyone can text “Wildfire,” to 85944 and donate $10. The money donated to the Wildfire Relief Fund has already provided gift cards so those affected by the fires could buy groceries, gas, lodging, replacement tools, clothes and other necessities. To date, we have collected more than $117,000.
Recently, Samsung announced a one-time gift of $50,000 for our wildfire recovery fund, the largest contribution to date. This donation allows United Way to work with communities to determine both immediate and long-term recovery needs. Together, we can help those most in need and those who are no longer covered by insurance regain a productive life.
Samsung’s gift exemplifies what it means to be a true corporate partner and citizen. Their gift toward wildfire recovery is in addition to the ongoing corporate giving campaign, so those who relied on UWCA’s programs in our 10-county area before the fires will continue to receive help.
Central Texas is no different than other areas who come together to help friends, families and neighbors in times of crisis or disaster, we just happen to have really interesting friends and neighbors. On Monday, many of those friends, including Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, George Strait, Dixie Chicks and Ray Benson will get together onstage for the Central Texas Wildfire Relief Concert. Benefits of the concert will provide additional and much-needed long-term recovery services to the people of Bastrop, Spicewood, Cedar Park and Pflugerville. Our team is working closely with Austin Community Foundation to gather information on needs and distribution of funds. Follow us live from the concert on Twitter: @unitedwayca
The effects of the wildfires have been heartbreaking: homes burned to the ground, families left with only the clothes on their backs, children displaced from neighborhoods and schools. Through it all, we are lifted up by the spirit of community, fellowship and generosity we see every day. It reminds all of us we can conquer anything as long as we LIVE UNITED.